That damn elevator

To answer 50% of the questions I have received for the last month: No. The elevator to Pier Park is not open, and I do not have an ETA for its opening.

I once responded on this topic to an Ask Pat, all those months ago, and looking back at that response with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder where that bright-eyed optimist Councillor went with his rosy predictions. I wish I knew now what I knew then.

The elevator is now almost a year overdue from what the plan was when the contract for construction was awarded. I can’t provide many details, but suffice to say the “relatively minor” third delay I mentioned in that earlier post has turned out to be not so easily fixed, and any potential fix needs to meet the extremely strict (and ostensibly arbitrary to us lay folks) requirements of the Safety Authority. There was just enough innovative design in the structure that the design of a fix has proved… problematic.

I know I’m being a little vague about the details of the issue, but it has nothing to do with covering my own ass or that of Council. This project is not being built by the City, but by private contractors who were paid to design and build a project. I am not a structural engineer, so my knowledge of the details is necessarily limited. As parts of the delay may result in a discussions between contractors and the Safety Authority, which may involve evaluating contract language between parties that are not the City, no-one would be served by my semi-informed finger pointing or laying of blame. My job is to keep asking our staff for progress updates, make sure they are pushing the contractors to get the job done ASAP, and to take the political flak for them all when we don’t meet public expectations.

What I can tell you: we will get an elevator working; the delays are not the result of City staff failing to administer the contract effectively; the elevator seems to work fine; a design work-around required to meet a single Safety Authority requirement is proving difficult to engineer to the satisfaction of the City and the contract; these delays are NOT costing the City money (but I can presume at this point that not getting paid is starting to hurt the contractor); and every single person on Council is just as frustrated as you are that we continue to miss hoped-for opening dates.

As an aside, after the last time I went on social media talking about the elevator a friend of mine who has built a number of buildings in New Westminster and neighbouring cities (but was not in any way involved in this overpass project), warned me about making the bold prediction that the problems would be solved soon. He said (and I paraphrase), elevators are to construction what children and animals are to acting – never work with them if you can avoid it. The rules and standards are often arcane (for example, the elevator requires a smoke detector outside the door to prevent it opening in a smoke-filled room. This is an outdoor elevator surrounded by glass, yet the requirement for a smoke detector – which I remind you will be outside – still exists) and there are simply not enough trained elevator technicians in greater Vancouver by a long shot. If you are young, have some mechanical aptitude, and want a sure career path, contact your local elevator contractor and get them to apprentice you. You will always have work. Just try to not spend you entire career on this one project…

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